Startup Lucid Motors of Menlo Park, California, is ready to take on Tesla with a 1,000 horsepower electric sedan selling for more than $100,000. And it will do just that once it, uh, finds some money to, uh, you know, build some actual cars.
You may remember Lucid by its earlier name Atieva, a more tech-oriented company founded in 2007 that made batteries, some sketches and quite possibly the coolest van of the past decade.
Check out this electric Mercedes test vehicle Atieva built that does the 0-60 run in 2.7 seconds:
Atieva changed few months ago to Lucid and started talking up a new sedan prototype to the media.
Lucid had raised several hundred million dollars and was primarily backed by two entities: the Chinese car company BAIC and the Chinese billionaire behind LeEco and Faraday Future, Jia Yueting, as Reuters reported. Lucid is adamant that in spite of this investment, all of its tech is in-house. That’s not a cheap operation.
If you’ve been following how Jia Yueting’s auto investments have been going lately, it should come as no surprise that Lucid now says that it is in need of more cash to continue.
Jia recently announced in a publicly distributed memo that he was re-focusing his investments to his video streaming service, his core business that made him his money.
Not long after that, the Nevada State Treasurer who worked with him on getting a billion-dollar factory started in North Las Vegas claimed he was plain broke.
Lucid came to the LA Auto Show’s mobility conference this year with its sedan engineering prototype. A representative at Lucid told me his team had to wrench the car from his engineer’s hands to get it to the show, a genuine work in progress.
The insect eye “multi-lens array” headlights on the car were duct-taped on. You could look through the front bumper and see the bare bones and wires of the car. Why was this car at the show, if not to drum up interest (and investment) from those in attendance?
Today Forbes published an interview with Lucid’s Chief Technology Officer Peter Rawlinson, who pointed out that the work Lucid is doing is of genuine quality. Members of the original team responsible for the Tesla Model S are on staff, as is Derek Jenkins, formerly car designer for Mazda. Lucid says it has the software and the hardware to beat Tesla. That Mercedes it built had 900 horsepower!
Lucid has every understanding of what car it needs to build to beat Tesla, and it says it has the know-how to do it. The only problem is a current lack of capital:
“I know firsthand that this is a capital intensive business, and we will require a future round of investment,” he said, without specifying a target amount. “We believe we are imminently investable, with a product as compelling as we have, our ability to deliver and our business model.”
Since its founding in 2007 as battery and electric motor maker Atieva, the company has raised $131 million, according to an estimate by Crunchbase. Lucid, a name adopted in October, won’t confirm how much it’s raised to date but Rawlinson said a new round begins in early 2017 to get a factory built and ready for use by late 2018. An announcement on the details of that facility somewhere in “the U.S. West” will be made soon, he said.
That $131 million figure, I should point out, was trotted out in the spring of 2015, as noted in this old story on Electrek about Atieva finally coming out of the shadows to drum up further investment.
Remember that this is a company that has been around for a decade now, working with the best team possible, with nine-figure fundraising efforts in its past. It’s still struggling to get enough money to get going as a solid car company. Lucid’s case is much more serious than, say, when Fisker said he’d sell an autonomous car just as soon as someone figured out how to make an autonomous car.
Lucid is a good example in an increasingly clear story of Silicon Valley’s entrance into the auto business: making cars is hard.